Saturday, April 16, 2011

Old Toronto Stock Exchange

The TSE opened its doors on March 30, 1937 as the most modern stock exchange in the world. Canadian journalists praised it, and Time magazine wrote that the building incorporated "the most up-to-date trading floor in the world." Its original cost was $750,000, a considerable sum in 1936 when construction began. The trading of stocks and commodities took place around nine hexagonal trading posts. These spread widely apart over the trading floor to avoid traffic congestion. Gone were the chalkboard of former times. Instead, mechanically displayed bid-and-ask stock prices on each of the posts' six vertical faces were automatically updated by operators situated in the basement of the building. The floor offered 200 telephones to traders on raised platforms, who silently summoned floor staff with special lights on large annunciator boards on the north and south walls. Some of this automation had to literally be invented for this new building.

The old Toronto Stock Exchange
 In 1983 the Toronto Stock Exchange abandoned its historic home at 234 Bay Street. Olympic & York purchased the building which was designated a heritage property. In return for the air rights to build an office tower on the site, O&Y agreed to retain and restore the building.

A group called the 'Design Exchange (DX)' took over the building. The DX purpose is the promotion of a the value of design. According to their mission statement, "We are an internationally recognized non-profit educational organization committed to promoting greater awareness of design as well as the indispensable role it plays in fostering economic growth and cultural vitality. We build bridges by improving communication between various design disciplines, educators, businesses and the general public through programs, exhibits, lectures, and workshops." The building also houses a museum. and is open to the public.

When I was a young man in the mid 60's I worked at the Globe and Mail Newspaper in Toronto and one of my jobs was to head down to the Stock Exchange building each weekday evening and pick up the massive bundle of printouts on the days  stock exchange action. This was, of course, before the days of the computer network .
I remember the  heavy doors  on the main entrance to the building. And especially the large plates that represented Canadian industry. Of course since I was originally from a mining town the plate showing the miner on a jack leg drill had particular significance. Actually it made me a but homesick.

On a recent trip into the city I was thrilled to see those very same doors.

There is a bit of  humour included on the carvings on the exterior of the building. It went unnoticed by the ever vigilant press of the day, but became an insider joke among the exchange brokers. Over the north doorway, a top-hatted stockbroker's hand appears to be in a worker's pocket. Comfort stated that this was wholly unintentional. He simply created a work that was to be a public symbol of the lifting of the Depression — men at work in every stratosphere of society. The 22-meter frieze was sculpted with pneumatic chisels during in just two months by sculptor and stonemason Peter Schoen on behalf of Comfort.

There is another rather interesting aspect to this building. According to The Toronto and Ontario Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society , there has been reports that the old Stock Exchange building may be haunted. Some workers have reported experiencing poltergeist-like phenomena such as the unexplained turning on of water taps, interference with the electrical system, footsteps and apparitions. The Society claims that the first reports that they have date back to the fall of 2005. A check of the building did not revaeal much. One researcher reported that she felt a temperature change in the air when she teped into the former stock trading floor. Apparently the investigation is ongoing.